Healthcare Tips

$10M Grant To Tackle Alzheimer's Disease Mystery

August 07, 2017

A researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine has been awarded more than $9.8 million to head a five-year National Institute on Aging Program Project Grant.

The project will bring together a "dream team" of researchers from five institutions to examine the biology of the most important risk factor in Alzheimer's disease, the cholesterol-carrying protein apolipoprotein E (apoE), and its receptors in the central nervous system.

Mary Jo LaDu, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology in the UIC College of Medicine, was one of the first researchers to investigate the role of apoE in neuronal injury and death. She showed that these lipoproteins in the central nervous system are distinct in structure and function from those found elsewhere in the body.

LaDu said she recognized that learning how apoE and its receptors affect the progression of AD may be the key to understanding the disease. So she decided to use her long-term association with other researchers in the field to develop a project that could tackle the biology of apoE and apoE receptors from all angles.

"I was able to bring together researchers who had overlapping interests and diverse expertise to attack the problem," LaDu said. Although not all of her collaborators knew each other, they all were excited about the project and immediately meshed as a team, she said.

"This is the first time that an NIH Program Project Grant has brought together investigators from so many institutions," said LaDu.

Other investigators include Steve Estus at the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, who studies the molecular genetics of AD; cell biologist Guojun Bu of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, an expert on apoE receptors; neurobiologist William Rebeck of Georgetown University, who studies the cellular mechanisms of signal transduction relevant to AD; and Edwin Weeber of the University of South Florida, a behaviorist and electrophysiologist who focuses on learning and memory and studies changes in synaptic function and animal behavior in genetically altered mice.

The grant will fund the work of the researchers, project administrators, and core facilities. A symposium is planned for next June in St. Louis.

Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
University of Illinois at Chicago